If wishes were horses, the cowards who contributed to the circumstances that led to the death of the brave police horse Shaktiman would not be roaming around, giving sickening soundbites to television channels. Injured grievously in a BJP protest in Uttarakhand, the horse, perhaps the most famous in India now after Maharana Pratap’s Chetak, lost its battle for life after a month. In this time, it was fitted with a prosthetic leg and underwent surgery even as the case attracted the attention of millions in India and abroad. Pictures of the MLA Ganesh Joshi attacking the horse were there for all to see, though he now claims that he played no part in the incident in which the valiant horse was injured.
As always, as soon as the incident took place, it was politicised. The MLA in question has come up with the astounding claim that this is a Congress conspiracy to put him in jail and the party has come up with lame comparisons to the Dadri incident and other communal disturbances. None of this has anything to do with cruelty to animals, in this case a horse in the line of duty. Cruelty to animals is pervasive in India given that the penalty is a paltry Rs 50 even in cases of maiming or killing. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, is hardly a deterrent to those who visit all manners of indignities and cruelty on animals. After the recent tragedy in Kerala, there were some voices raised on the issue of using elephants in temple rituals. The noise, heat and crowds cause extreme discomfort to the animals. In the recent Thrissur pooram festival which uses up to 60 elephants, many of their injuries were covered with black paint. Stray dogs are culled in Kerala, despite protests. Chickens and goats meant for slaughterhouses are kept in cramped conditions before their lives end. Despite the law prohibiting the exhibition of animals in chains or in cages, it is common sight to see monkeys in chains performing for crowds in our cities.
In the case of Shaktiman which so moved the nation, the guilty must be punished. The MLA’s grandstanding that his own leg must be cut off if he is guilty is to add insult to injury in this case. The needless death of the horse should raise the question of whether animals are required in policing duties as also the need to make the law stricter in cases of animal abuse.